Blackwelder column: Warm weather keeps questions coming

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 16, 2011

SALISBURY — The unusually warm weather still has gardeners asking questions about their landscapes and other outdoor chores. Below are a few questions posed to Cooperative Extension over the past few weeks.
Q: Is now a good time to plant trees and shrubs? I found some trees on sale and I was wondering if I could plant them or do I need to wait until spring?
A: Now is a good time to plant. Go ahead and get them in the ground and be sure to add 6 inches of mulch. Avoid planting in extremely cold weather.
Q: I want to prune my grape vines and use the vines to make a wreath for Christmas decorations. Can I prune my vines now and not hurt them?
A: Lightly pruning the vines now will not injure them. However, heavy pruning as a normal cultural practice in the late winter and early spring is recommended.
Q: My friend from church gave me some paperwhites and they are now in full bloom. Can I plant them after they have bloomed outdoors?
A: No, paperwhites bulbs are not hardy in our climate and will not survive the winters. They are generally throwaway plants.
Q: When is a good time to fertilize my pansies?
A: Fertilize pansies with a water soluble fertilizer when temperatures are consistently below 60 degrees. Avoid fertilization during unseasonably warm temperatures as we have experienced this past week. Excessively warm temperatures cause the plants to stretch and become weak and frail.
Q: My pecan tree I planted 20 years ago has always had small nuts, almost too small to crack. Is there any type of fertilizer I can use to make them larger.
A: Unfortunately, no. Your problem sounds like the tree graft or bud died and your tree reverted to a seedling. Seedling pecans almost always grow very well but have poor quality fruits.
Q: Can I control chickweed in lawns now?
A: Yes, with our unseasonably warm weather, chickweed is growing quickly and a post emergence herbicide can be applied. Post emergence herbicides containing 2, 4-D and dicamba work well. It’s best to control this weed early when the plant is small. Multiple applications 10-14 days apart may be necessary for adequate control.
Darrell Blackwelder is the County Extension Director with horticulture responsibilities with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Learn more about Cooperative Extension events and activities by calling 704-216-8970 Facebook or online at